In Name Only (1939)

Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) and Alec Walker (Cary Grant) are both lonely for two different reasons.  Alec is married to Maida (Kay Francis), but neither of them actually loves the other.  Maida only married him because of his money.  Julie is a widowed illustrator who lives with her young daughter and divorced sister.  The two meet when Julie rents a house in the town where Alec lives and naturally, they end up falling in love.  When they first meet, they hit it off right away and it starts off innocently enough.  Julie doesn’t know he’s married and Alec sees that Julie is everything Maida isn’t.  But complications arise one night when Alec and Maida’s friend Suzanne get into a car accident near Julie’s house.  Suzanne asks Julie to call Alec’s wife and a doctor for him and before Julie knows it, she’s face to face with Maida.  But Maida immediately knows there’s something between Alec and Julie when she notices Julie’s sketchbook sitting in Alec’s wrecked car.

When Julie finds out about Maida, she’s heartbroken.  After her sister’s marriage ended because of another woman, she absolutely does not want to be the other woman.  But Alec is more determined than ever to get out of his loveless marriage and demands that Maida give him a divorce.  The only way he can get her to give him a divorce is if he lets her take a trip to Paris with his parents to get it.  Desperate to be rid of her, he gladly agrees to this plan and as soon as Maida and his parents are on the boat, Alec and Julie’s relationship moves very quickly.  When Julie goes to New York for work, Alec goes with her and proposes.

The only thing standing in their way of happiness is Maida.  Their marriage plans keep being pushed back because Maida keeps running into delays with the divorce.  Or so they think.  The truth is that Maida never had any intention of giving him a divorce and she makes that point quite clear to them when she and Alec’s parents return to New York on Christmas Eve.  When Alec threatens to go to Reno himself, Maida vows to make the whole legal affair as ugly as possible.  Tired of all the frustrations, Julie breaks it off with Alec, who then heads out to a bar to drown his sorrows.  Alec stumbles into a cheap motel for the night and passes out in front of an open window.  The motel staff finds him the next morning seriously ill and Julie is called to take care of him.  At first they only think he has the flu, but it turns out to be a much more serious bout of pneumonia and he is rushed to the hospital.  The hospital won’t let Julie in to see Alec since they’re not married, but when the doctor tells Alec’s father (Charles Coburn) that Alec needs a reason to want to get well again, he lets Julie see him so he’d have that reason.  But the movie wouldn’t be complete without one last showdown between Julie and Maida.  Not only does Maida get told off by Julie, Maida accidentally reveals her true motives to Alec’s parents.  Now that Alec’s parents have finally seen the real Maida, they fully support the idea of Alec getting that divorce.

I must say, it was a pretty bold move to take Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, and Charles Coburn, what would have been one of the most brilliant comedic casts ever assembled, and put them in a drama.  But the good news is that none of their talents are wasted here.  Actually, I think this is a completely underrated movie for both Cary Grant and Carole Lombard.  Even though this gets a 7.0 on IMDB, for some reason, I didn’t go into it expecting anything special.  But I was very pleasantly surprised.  It may be pretty melodramatic, but at least it’s well acted melodrama.  Kay Francis was definitely somebody I loved to hate and I liked the chemistry between Carole and Cary.  I really wish Carole and Cary had made another movie together, perhaps they would have if Carole hadn’t died so young.  They were wonderful in a drama together, but in a comedy, they would have been absolutely unstoppable.

Be sure to visit Carole & Co. for more of her 103rd birthday celebration!


  1. Thank you for your entry! I agree that a Carole-Cary comedy would have been sublime, and even though this is a drama, there are some scenes here that hint of what might have been.

  2. Very nice review! I haven’t seen this film for years, but with that star line-up, I need to go back and see it again. Aside from the divine leads, Kay Francis is an actress that I would like to investigate further. Thanks for the great post!

    1. It is definitely worth seeing if only for the cast. Like I said, It might not be what you’d expect with a cast like that, but they’re still fantastic in it anyway.

  3. Angela,
    I really enjoyed your INO review! I agree that it’s interesting that they put this cast of great comediennes in a drama. I adore Cary so I went into this film giddy and ready for brilliance. It was a good film but not my favorite of Cary’s or Carole’s.
    A great review and a fun contribution to the Carole-tennial.

  4. When Carole Lombard signed for In Name Only she was waiting for the divorce of Clark and Rhea Gable,she had even teased Clark that she was going to offer the “Other Woman’s part to Rhea!! What she did instead was to plead for Kay Francis, a top tier star at the beginning of the thirties,and made sure that Kay ‘s name was above the title and that she was treated as a Star. As well as beautiful, smart, she generous with her time and talent. You gotta love that Carole, oh and the picture is pretty decent too.

    1. Good move on Carole’s part! I thought Kay was kind of a scene stealer in this movie. She’s not the person you’re rooting for, but she sure nailed being so cold, calculating, and unfeeling.

  5. Great point you make about the film assembling a top-notch comedy cast and putting them in a straight melodrama. As it it, the combo of Francis, Grant, and Lombard gives you a potent mix of talent and glamour. As Carole showed in other films like THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED and MADE FOR EACH OTHER, she was not only a great comic actress, but a great dramatic one as well. Terrific review.

  6. I think this is one of those times where I feel like I’d much rather be backstage, watching Grant, Lombard, and Francis kicking back and having fun, than watching the actual film. No offense to the screenwriters; I just think those three would have an amazing group to party with.

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